Advanced search

Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.

Dear Mum

(129 Posts)
NameChangeToGo Tue 06-Aug-13 08:40:34

You've just left and as usual, I feel broken. Sad and guilty and hopeless and, oddly but as always, ill.

Our relationship is the most complicated and saddening thing in my life. My friends simply don't understand it, but I make a point of keeping you out of my 'real' life as much as I can, so they only see a very small side of you. DH and SIL get it, at least to some extent.

To anybody else, I think I would seem quite 2 dimensional given the limited input you get from me. But given that you don't actually seem to see me as a separate entity, rather as an extension of yourself, I don't suppose that really matters. It's a claustrophobic and stifling perspective. The disappointment whenever a situation occurs which clearly disputes this is palpable but is soon 'rewritten' and forgotten.

You consider yourself to be so 'nice' that any perceived criticism results in an extreme defensive response. I always end up feeling as if I've just booted a small puppy, no matter how light-hearted or innocuous the comment.

You are a little girl in a women's body. You consider your childish affectations to be somehow charming. I champion strong women and it pains me that the woman I should be able to look up to and respect is such a child.

Your ability to turn every topic of conversation, every achievement of mine, everything my children do, even the bloody weather onto yourself is mind blowing. I still can't quite fathom how you can be so self-deprecating and so self-obsessed at the same time.

You seem to think you are a big help. In reality, you do nothing except add another person trying to claim my full and constant attention to the mix. I'm not sure how you aren't embarrassed to just lounge on the sofa while we run around organising or clearing up after family get-togethers.

I can't hug you or tell you I love you. I turned it off during my teenage years (a very dark time at home for me) and can't turn it back on again. I hate it when you touch me.

You have lied and manipulated, and when challenged you deny everything. It's all done in your little girl, I'm just so nice persona, and it leaves me disorientated about what is real. You also make stuff up in order to appear empathetic. Or to make a point. Or to make you sound more wise. Or for a hundred other reasons. If we challenge you on it, the booted puppy makes a reappearance.

You fill every pause in conversation by telling us how much you love us or love spending time with us. This should be a wonderful thing but it feels stifling. Something about the rise in intonation at the end and the pause which suggests you're again fishing for validation (the search for validation, about everything from your clothes to your opinions, is constant and draining). Is it wonderful to see us? Can it really be wonderful for you while I'm struggling so much just to be in the same room as you? Probably not and it again means that it's not clear quite how much of it is truth.

When you're around, I can hardly breathe. My stomach is tight and there have been occasions when I've had to fight a panic attack. There is no other time when I feel like this. The only way I can cope is to switch a part of myself off when I'm with you. But your words about how much you love us are in my psyche, even though I doubt their truth, and it means that as soon as you've left I feel cripplingly guilty.

In many ways I would love to cut you out but know that I will never be able to. I wish I could find a way to allow us to get on, but I think I finally have to accept that it's never going to happen. Every single time I let my guard down I regret it. I don't know what the answer is and I'm so, so tired.

NameChangeToGo Thu 08-Aug-13 12:21:46

S2S I would LOVE, really love to be able to get to the heart of why she hurts me so much. I think that's a big part of the reason I'm writing so much on here.

I think I might be getting there though, I'm pretty sure it has something to do with insecurity and jealousy on her part. We're fine as long as she can take credit for everything, or relate everything back to herself, or generally view me as an extension of herself. If she's ever challenged though, things get a bit messy.

Your comment that I can be the woman I wish is something I'm really trying to take to heart. I worry that I've had such a crappy parenting model that I'll fall into the same traps, in the same way as I sometimes come out with stuff she says without realising it until it's out there. But that fact is, when it's out, I realise it. When I do stuff that is a bit 'narcy', I check myself fast, even before I knew what NPD was. I need to believe that I don't have to be the same as her.

NameChangeToGo Thu 08-Aug-13 12:33:20

Since she left on Monday, I've had 9 messages from her. The first one I answered.

Message 8 said (to summarise) that she was worried about me and I sent a brief reply.

Message 9 said "thanx 4 txt. Good to hear from you. Hope you had a good day with B. love to aj [assume that means all!]. Mumx

My initial response was aargh ffs, good to hear from me?! You were HERE two days ago and I've text you twice since then.

And then I felt completely unreasonable. It's a head fuck.

NameChangeToGo Thu 08-Aug-13 12:36:18

Last one for now.... I've just reread my post above where I said that as long as it's all about her, we're fine. But we're not. She is. I am not fine at all being considered solely as an extension of my mother. It really does need to change.

something2say Thu 08-Aug-13 12:50:13

Just on the sexual post - what I sense is that she has issues with sexuality...maybe she was abused....maybe she internalised how things used to be for sex is wrong because it can get you pregnant and then how can you take care of yourself, so avoid sex and pregnancy at all costs.....juxtaposed with the fact that sex is natural and normal, hence the way her sexuality comes out sideways...with the weird sitting positions and not wearing any knickers.......

However, none of this is your problem and she obv doesn't have the wherewithall to go off and get her head straight on the matter....all she is doing is being the problem herself......I support you in distancing yourself while you sort it out yourself....

Now I will read the reas of your posts...

something2say Thu 08-Aug-13 12:53:53

Re your post at the top of this page, we could go on and on about why she is like she is, but the real thing I am interested in the impact that she has had on you.

Her problems need to be pushed back to her space now, and yours dragged out. It sounds like it has been all about her for too long, so now it can be all about you.

I think after a while of being apart from her, you will feel better all by yourself. Anything else you do to tweak your own thoughts / behaviour / actions will just be icing on the cake.

But in the meanwhile, maybe start a list fo things you need to think through? Such as your fight or flight response, your boundaries, your self image, your pattern around anger, your denial - all of which will have been forged in her crucible, but now can come out into the light of day and be assessed in their own light in terms of how useful they are to you today....


something2say Thu 08-Aug-13 12:56:59

It seems to me that your mother has an issue with boundaries - where she ends and other people begin. And she has to be made happy by others all the time, regardless of their actual thoughts and needs.

So whats your plan for now?

And if you did not have her and the guilt to contend with, what would your plan be? x and is there a differenmce, and if it has to be different because of her response, then you are being controlled by someone else's behaviour (guilt, fear, sense of obligation, demands etc) - and that is no way to live....and it is OK to tell them this, point blank, and then cut them off for a while......x

NameChangeToGo Thu 08-Aug-13 13:06:53

Your posts are brilliant, they're really making me think and are pulling me out of my usual dead-end thought process on this.

Again, I'll come back when I've thought about them a bit more x

MumnGran Thu 08-Aug-13 13:15:44

As I've said OP. I think this is absolutely a real problem with your Mum, and you are in a stage where you need to look at lots of aspects. It may be very useful to focus on how your experiences were as a young child, because much of that will have informed the way you react to both your mother and many other 'issues' today.
Finding a real diagnosis for her may help you in validating exactly what you see as being unreasonable, or unhealthy, but it is not the most important thing. What matters most is acknowledging how her behaviours are affecting you, and disengaging from damaging patterns.....whether they fit into a profile or not.

One word of caution. It is easy, and normal, to ascribe everything as being abnormal - if it presses a button for you - but not every behaviour will be aberrant (I would hope!) Some aspects will be 'normal' irritating mothers stuff .... your last post actually made me seriously question myself, as I could very easily have had the text exchanges you write about....and have done! though I would probably have made more than one typo in the texts
From a 'normal' parent standpoint (and I only have my kids validation on that one, but they tell me I am definitely not the narc that my mother was) I would have made text 9, in those circumstances, and added the 'good to hear from you' not as an upbraid or criticism, but just because I would have been relieved to hear if I had sent a text mentioning I was worried about my DD.
That is because I text pretty much as I think ....which might not be a good thing, but is not exclusive to narcs!! And also because we text a lot in our family, so continuing to chat after seeing each other a couple of days before would be very usual.

As I said right back at the start .... I think your concerns and feelings are wholly justified, so only wanted to mention this because it is important to sort in your own head what crosses your boundary line as 'wrong' ...and what is a foible which all mothers have one form or another. another.

YoungBritishPissArtist Thu 08-Aug-13 13:17:42

Gosh, namechange, I can really relate, in my case, it's my dad.

The stomach feeling tight and verging on panic - yes, this hmm
When he's gone after we've spent time together, I feel so drained and exhausted, like an empty shell.

Maybe your mum was sexually abused? Not that this in any way excuses her behaviour towards you, but could be an explanation.

Well done for writing this, and thank you x

HowlerMonkey Thu 08-Aug-13 13:19:36

I just saw the opening part of your post and was going to recommend the Daughters site, but I see you've been there already.

My mother is like this too. It sucks. ((()))

HowlerMonkey Thu 08-Aug-13 13:23:50

Jesus, I've now read your WHOLE post.

You are a little girl in a women's body. You consider your childish affectations to be somehow charming. I champion strong women and it pains me that the woman I should be able to look up to and respect is such a child.

I can't hug you or tell you I love you. I turned it off during my teenage years (a very dark time at home for me) and can't turn it back on again. I hate it when you touch me.

Something about the rise in intonation at the end and the pause which suggests you're again fishing for validation (the search for validation, about everything from your clothes to your opinions, is constant and draining).

I always end up feeling as if I've just booted a small puppy, no matter how light-hearted or innocuous the comment.

Yes, yes, yes, yes.

NameChangeToGo Thu 08-Aug-13 13:25:27

Mumngran, thanks for your perspective and it's part of the reason it's so tricky. I suppose the question is, would you have sent one of your kids 9 (it was 10, actually, I forgot one of the emails smile ) messages over the course of 36 hours, even if they hadn't had the chance to reply (or had chosen not to) for 24 of those? I answered the first text so chances of me combusting without her presence were at least eliminated smile Would you really have been that worried had you not heard anything -knowing how busy we are- for a day?

But yes, the text could just as easily have been completely innocuous.

NameChangeToGo Thu 08-Aug-13 13:25:54

Oops x post will read the others now

MumnGran Thu 08-Aug-13 13:43:33

No, I would not have sent 10 texts without having had replies that made it an 'exchange' not a monologue. At the most, I might send two (because I had a swift follow-up thought, or if I hadn't heard back to the 1st after a day, simply because that would be unusual)
So, you can safely move that one into the 'not normal' column smile

You will identify more & more screwed up things because you are now fully aware. You are likely to see-saw a lot, emotionally. It is likely that anger, worry, fear and possibly depressive feelings will dominate your life in the coming days, and may run riot. This is very normal in your situation. However badly skewed your growing up has been by your mother, it has been your normality and realising that the relationship really is very far from normal is a real shock to the system. The validation is a wonderful thing, but takes some getting used to after so long.

I am concerned if you have support though, because even when we are intellectually aware, emotions ride high? do you have someone close to you that you would be happy to really open up to about this? maybe show them this thread so you don't have to explain everything, if that might be hard? just someone who will be rock solid for you, as you start to disengage?
What matters here is not your mother ...but you.

NameChangeToGo Thu 08-Aug-13 13:45:45

YBPA it's rubbish isn't it. And really strange that it can evoke such a physical reaction, don't you think?? I find the more people are around, the more diluted it is. If it's just me and her - the first panic attack was out at lunch, so we were facing each other and there was really no distraction - it's incredibly difficult. Thank you for replying, it's helping so much to know I'm not the only one who feels this way x

Howlermonkey, that site is good, isn't it. The page on engulfing mothers could have been written about mine. I nearly cried when I read it.

NameChangeToGo Thu 08-Aug-13 14:24:54

Also howlermonkey, it meant a lot that you related to those parts of the post.

Mumngran, you see I wouldn't have placed it so firmly in the not normal column had you not challenged it. I just get caught up in a fuzzy kind of guilt. I don't know if I have anyone in RL I can talk to properly about this. I can talk most honestly with DH, but even he doesn't really get the extent of it, although he is affected by it too. The fact that he doesn't have the history or the biological connection means that ultimately, she's just his weird, annoying MIL. He's good to talk to if it's focusing on a clear plan, but he's not so great at talking for hours about feelings. If I do get the crash, I think I'll need to consider counselling more seriously. At the moment, I feel relief. I suspected there was more to it, I spoke to DH about that the last time saw her, but neither of us had any idea what it could be, so that was that.

tangerinefeathers Thu 08-Aug-13 14:36:18

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

GoodtoBetter Thu 08-Aug-13 15:39:55

Hello OP.

Your thread struck a chord with me as I have a mother who fits very well into the narcissistic engulfing/histrionic disorder. She doesn't have all the traits, but I expect most people don't and she doesn't really have the weird sexuality thing (although she was abused by a trusted adult...not a family member but an adult in a position of responsibility).

I had a long running thread about my mother and gradually realising why she seemed to hate my DH and eventually moving out of the house we shared with her (that she'd manipulated us into moving into, "to look after her"). I'd always known we had a bit of a stifling relationship and had always felt totally responsible for her happiness, but it didn't really all slot into place until she over played her hand and I came here for advice and then read the daughters of narcissictic mothers site and it was like someone describing her, even down to the stock phrases.

I haven't gone NC, but have been working at detaching and I totally agree with a PP (sorry, can't scroll back to see who said it):
It's about achieving a more cool-headed distance so you can think to yourself 'now she's manipulating me; now she's lying, now she's being melodramatic, now she's bringing up the golden child's superior behaviour ' etc but without getting drawn into it.

Mine does the opposite about contact, I see her once or twice a week with DCs in carefully controlled situations, but she rarely contacts me apart from that. She moans about my brother not being in touch, but then doesn't contact him herself.

She had a golden child (me, hence the engulfing) and a scapegoat in my DBro. Now reversed since I moved out. She also appears to have a gc and a sg in my children, my DS (5) being golden and my DD (2) being the scapegoat. In fact, we're away at the mo and I last spoke to her on Monday and mentioned DD had had d&v and there's been nothing since, but when DS had a slight urine infection that I mentioned on a Sunday, she was texting by the Tues to ask after him. sad.

AttilaTheMeerkat Thu 08-Aug-13 15:57:59


Do you still seek her approval on some level?.

It is nigh on impossible to actually be able to carefully control such situations. She will do to them what she has done to you and your brother, you are already seeing evidence of this.

I was not surprised to read that your mother now has established for herself both a scapegoat and golden child in your own children now. Some parents really should not have access to their grandchildren.

I state that as these dysfunctional toxic people make for being dysfunctional and toxic grandparents as well. I would think very carefully about the current level of contact she has with your children; they need positive role models, not toxic ones.

GoodtoBetter Thu 08-Aug-13 16:10:11

You are probably right Attila but it's the best I can do atm. I only really figured it out at xmas and moved out of her house in Jan so I'm still finding my way and getting used to her not occupying my entire headspace all the time and walking on eggshells all the time. It's been a huge, life-changing event and I'm only at the start of a long journey.

NameChangeToGo Thu 08-Aug-13 20:37:54

It's hard though. It would be so lovely to have a normal mother, one who is genuinely maternal and kind and straightforwardly supportive

This made me cry a little. That's the real heart of it for me, right there. I'm going to have to get better at managing her behaviour, which has been difficult because it's all so subtle that it creates a shifting sense of reality. Often, when I haven't seen her for a month or so, I'll actually be looking forward to seeing her. It's like a kind of amnesia. Because its never actually any different. I've always felt that I don't want to be the bitch who tells her mother she's not welcome in her home (and she has previously completely ignored specific limits I've put in place anyway and I've caved because of this guilt). I do feel optimistic now about this side of it, that I'm gaining a different perspective and can approach it with greater strength.

But, I've always felt the loss of the mother I thought I had when I was very young deeply and consciously and that's a side of it which isn't going to go away.

NameChangeToGo Thu 08-Aug-13 21:06:36

GoodtoBetter I think you're very brave.

TheCrackFox Thu 08-Aug-13 21:10:34

You have my huge sympathies

My mum is very similar - nothing truly awful (I wasn't made to eat out of a dog bowl or anything like that) - just a drip, drip effect over 40 yrs.

It must be lovely to have a mum who is supportive and, well normal. My triumphs and successes have been rubbished and my tragedies revelled in.

GoodtoBetter Thu 08-Aug-13 21:31:01

Aw thanks Namechange I'm not really. I think braver would be to go even lower contact and spell out the favouritism with my DCs or maybe even complete NC but that's complex and I'm not up to it. Low contact and boundaries seem to be working okayish for now. I put up with too much shit for a long time and then she just went too far and went for DH the last time and then when I wouldn't back down as usual she went apeshit and showed her true colours and the FOG lifted and then you can't unsee it iyswim. So there's no way but on thru it, like in we're going on a bear hunt. sad

YoungBritishPissArtist Fri 09-Aug-13 08:17:44

Namechange - yy to more people diluting the effect! Meeting my dad alone, if we're in a cafe or restaurant, is so draining, he's like an emotional vampire. I'm going to read up on narcissism.

I can also recommend a book, Toxic parents by Susan Forward. I bought it a while ago but couldn't continue reading as it was too upsetting. Like you, I wish I had a "normal" dad and it was just too painful to pick up this book and see my dad's behaviour written there.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now